The internet is screaming about a new game in which you play as a psychotic goat. But what does it mean?
1. What is a goat?
Any of various hollow-horned ruminant mammals (especially of the genus Capra) related to the sheep but of lighter build and with backwardly arching horns, a short tail, and usually straight hair; especially : one (Capra hircus) long domesticated for its milk, wool, and flesh
2. What is a simulator?
A machine that is used to show what something looks or feels like and is usually used to study something or to train people
3. What is a goat simulator?
Well, putting two and two together, we can conclude that a goat simulator is a machine used to show what it looks and feels like to be a goat, perhaps for the purpose of studying goats and humans, or to train people to think like or act like goats.
4. So is “Goat Simulator” a goat simulator?
Yes and no.
First, we need a little context. Goat Simulator began life as a glorified warmup exercise. Its creators—Coffee Stain Studios—built a playable demonstration of a goat and four houses with some physics-simulating software called UDK, as a way of stretching their creative muscles before beginning work on a bigger project.
A video of the resulting demo went viral, and the internet begged Coffee Stain to turn their goatish physics demo into a full game.
So the game does simulate something—real world physics—and it does star a goat, but it’s not exactly a “goat simulator” in the classic sense of the phrase, inasmuch as it does not attempt to teach the player what it is like to be goat.
A reasonable objection could be raised: much as a great novel featuring fantastic events can sometimes be held as a truer “simulator” of real life than a history, Goat Simulator, despite its absurd trappings, might be held as a truer “simulator” of goatness than a game strictly confined to the barnyard and eating cans. Now we’re broaching more complex questions of goat epistemology and nothing I’ve read indicates that Coffee Stain has any special knowledge of the lived experiences of goats. And the Oculus Rift is still months away.
A more accurate title for the game might therefore be “Goat and Simulator” or “Physics Simulator Feat. Virtual Goat”.
5. Why would I play a physics simulation starring a goat?
A better question might be, why wouldn’t you play a physics simulation starring a goat?
6. That’s glib. Answer my question.
Goats and physics engines are both weird, halting, glitchy, evil things that are inherently comical. The combination of the two, along with various objects meant to display the features of the physics engine—trampolines, jet packs, slides, fireworks, floppy appendages etc., etc.—might reasonably be expected to produce a sizable comic effect.
Western theories of humor typically focus on the concept of the “expected unexpected”; spaces in which the unexpected and ironic happen with some expected degree of regularity, though their exact form is not known until they are performed. Both goats and physics engines may be expected to do weird and hilariously unexpected things.
In other words, if you are a Western person who thinks things exist in the world that can be funny, you would, and should want to play a physics simulation starring a goat.
7. Can I look at the goat’s butt and undercarriage?
Yep, you sure can.
8. Okay, this sound cool, but should I really pay ten dollars to play a physics simulation starring a goat?
A tougher question to be sure. On the one hand, you might take Coffee Stain at their word when they write:
Goat Simulator is a small, broken and stupid game. I t was made in a couple of weeks so don’t expect a game in the size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you’re better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you’d spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat.
On the other hand, self-effacement and sarcasm are two of the dominant strains in Scandinavian culture, and Coffee Stain hail from Sweden. We should accommodate the possibility that these people hold their game in high esteem and would very much like us to play it, even setting aside purely financial motives.
Ultimately this choice comes down to a series of factors, including your access to money, your appreciation of slapstick humor, and your personal and moral priorities. But maybe this decision won’t be made rationally at all! Economists disagree as to whether humans are in fact rational actors and so wouldn’t it be fitting if you, at your boring/unboring, 9-5/freelance, easy/hard, dream/nightmare job, decided, in a spasm of expected unexpectedness, to purchase Goat Simulator?
I don’t know. Maybe. It’s pretty funny.
Annnnd, here’s a gif of a goat getting hit by a car